Mutual Benefits: The Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa)

Introduction

The Exchange Visitor Program, also known as the J-1 Visa Program, has been attracting foreign students, teachers and other professionals from around the world to the United States for a short-term work experience. For nearly five decades, the U.S. and the participating countries have found the program to be mutually beneficial. The U.S. benefits from temporary work assistance while participants gain valuable work experience. The nation’s citizens and the J-1 visa holders each attain knowledge, skills, culture, and insights from the other. The Trump administration, nonetheless, has raised concerns that recipients of the Summer Work Travel category, the largest of all the J-1 visa categories, are displacing young Americans from summer jobs.

This paper examines the Summer Work Travel category of the J-1 visa, the individuals receiving these visas, and the program’s effect on U.S. businesses. We find two concurrent trends: Visa recipients help businesses fill seasonal work needs, and young native-born workers are more interested in pursuing extra college credits and internships rather than summer jobs. The findings suggest that reducing the number of visas for the program would harm businesses, native-born workers, and local economies.

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